Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Happy Cactus by DK

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Happy Cactus
by DK


ISBN-13: 9781465474537
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: DK
Released: May 15, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In-depth profiles, care tips, and display inspiration for more than 50 popular cactus and succulent varieties. Practical advice, from potting to propagating. Unearth the secrets of different cacti and succulents, with profiles on more than 50 popular varieties. From the cute, flowering pincushion cactus to the wacky prickly pear, discover what makes your plant unique and how it might behave when treated with a little bit of love. Find out where to put it, when to water it, what to feed it, what to look out for, and how to encourage its distinctive traits, from flower stalks to fast growth.

Whether you're seeking a stylish houseplant for your apartment but struggling to keep more temperamental plants alive, or you're a green-fingered cactus enthusiast determined to get your precious plant to grow and flower this year, Happy Cactus is here to answer your questions.


My Review:
Happy Cactus is a gardening book about growing cacti and succulents as houseplants. The book started by talking about choosing a pot and soil, how much sunlight, fertilizer, and water they need, how to repot or propagate them, and dealing with potential pests. Then they provided specific details for about 46 types of cacti and succulents (with sidebars on related plants). These in-depth pages talked about characteristics of the plants (like height, potential pests, how fast it grows, and spines) and care instructions (how much sunlight it needs, when to fertilize and water, plus repotting, propagating, and flowering tips).

They talked about cacti that are only a few inches tall to those that can grow several feet tall. They talked about plants that have spines and those that don't. They even talked about cacti that are grown in a hanging pot. This book is a fun way to learn more about these plants and potentially find some that would suit your house. The only thing they don't really cover is how to find these plants, as some aren't going to be in your local stores.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Road to Dawn by Jared A. Brock

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The Road to Dawn
by Jared A. Brock


ISBN-13: 9781541773929
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Released: May 15, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
This sweeping biography immortalizes the man who was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in an epic tale of courage and bravery in the face of unimaginable trials.

Josiah Henson overcame incredible odds to escape from slavery and improve the lives of hundreds of freedmen throughout his long life. He found international fame--including visits to Windsor Castle and the White House--as the real "Uncle Tom" in the novel that fueled the abolitionist movement and ignited the Civil War. But his story has been mostly lost to history, until now.

A dynamic, driven man with exceptional intelligence and unyielding principles, Henson spent forty-one years in bondage before he was finally able to escape with his wife and four children, carrying the youngest two on his broken shoulders for 600 miles. He eventually settled with his family as a free man across the border in Canada. Once there, Henson agitated for racial equality, raised millions for the abolitionist cause, won a medal at the first World's Fair in London, and became a beloved preacher. He returned to America and rescued 118 more slaves, including his own brother, and helped purchase land to build what would become one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad, a 500-person freedman settlement called Dawn.

The Road to Dawn retraces Henson's improbable journey from slavery to freedom and restores a hero of the abolitionist movement to his rightful place in history.


My Review:
The Road to Dawn is a biography about Josiah Henson, who lived from 1789 to 1883. He was born a slave in Maryland and remained a slave for 41 years. In real danger of being sold to a brutal master in the Deep South, he ran away to Canada with his wife and four young children. This was before the Underground Railroad, so he had to forge his own way north with occasional help from kindly strangers. As a preacher concerned for his fellow ex-slaves, Josiah raised money and convinced other ex-slaves to build a town (Dawn) with a school (British American Institute) to help former slaves build a new, prosperous life. He created a successful farm out of wilderness, preached a circuit, encouraged the town's development, raised funds for the school, dictated a popular memoir, and told many famous people (including Harriet Beecher Stowe) his story and about the horrors of slavery.

The author used Josiah Henson's memoirs, newspaper articles, lawsuit records, and such to find details about his life. In addition to talking about Josiah's time as a slave, the author included stories about how cruel slavery could be in general. Even once free, Josiah had a hard life as people who resented his influence and his methods of helping others repeatedly tried to ruin his reputation. The author focused on Josiah's fundraising tours and the battles waged over who got to run the British American Institute--which Josiah never did, though he raised funds for it.

The author also talked about Harriet Beecher Stowe's books and the Civil War. Though Stowe loosely modeled Uncle Tom on Josiah Henson, Josiah's life was different than the character's in many ways. I realized this, but I also had expected an inspirational story. Instead, the first part was hard to read because the author wanted to paint a vivid, graphic picture of the torture slaves sometimes endured. The second part was just depressing. Rather than focusing on all the good done, it focused on a good man being torn down while giving his all to help others. Overall, I'd recommend this book, but just realize that the whole thing is a sad story.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Drawing Wild Animals by Oana Befort, Maggie Reinbold

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Drawing Wild Animals
by Oana Befort,
Maggie Reinbold


ISBN-13: 9781631593499
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Quarry Books
Released: May 8, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Featuring the delightful and informative illustrations of artist Oana Befort and the inspiring expertise of conservation educator Maggie Reinbold, Drawing Wild Animals guides artists at all skill levels as they learn about, observe, and draw animals in a whole new light.

To feed your curiosity, you’ll learn the characteristics, behaviors and, habitats of animals from categories like predators, grazers, and marsupials. To nurture the artist, you'll get step-by-step instructions that show how to develop each animal from simple shapes into richly detailed drawings. Armed with a deeper understanding of animals, you’ll be better able to capture their stunning beauty and enchanting attributes in your artwork.


My Review:
Drawing Wild Animals is an art book on drawing and painting wild animals. The conservation educator provided some basic information about the animals in the demonstrations. The artist showed how to draw wild animals with 26 step-by-step demonstrations. Each demonstration had 6-8 steps with easy-to-follow illustrations and clear text instructions. She used general colors in the instructions rather than specific brand name colors, so you don't need a specific brand to follow the demonstrations.

She started by drawing the basic shapes in pencil, then connecting and refining the shapes. She then added the features, fur, and patterns to make the animal look realistic. She used ink to draw the finalized lines then used watercolor to add color and shading. While not hyper-realistic, the finished art is realistic, not stylized. She didn't specifically talk about how to look at an animal and figure out the steps (using shapes to establish proportions, refinement of the form, adding details), but she did point out how the steps for one animal could be used to draw similarly shaped animals. I felt like I could apply the steps to animals that aren't in the demonstrations. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to beginning animal artists, from children to adult.

Animals in the demonstrations: Bengal tiger, grey wolf, polar bear, mongoose, elk, hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, rhinoceros, elephant, hedgehog, chinchilla, hare, sloth, bat, monkey, lemur, koala, frog, toad, salamander, gecko, rattlesnake, crocodile, tortoise, and turtle.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Portrait Drawing by Joanna Henly

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Pocket Art:
Portrait Drawing
by Joanna Henly


ISBN-13: 9781631594694
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Rockport Publishing
Released: April 24, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
This lively, graphic approach to explaining concepts will have you looking and learning with step by step illustrations and expert tips straight from London-based artist "Miss Led" (aka Joanna Henly). Henly begins by guiding you through your initial set up, then moves on to "Understanding the Face". She takes you through capturing facial features and expressions and rendering of hair and skin. This compact 112-page book is just right for carrying in a backpack or pocket for when you’re learning on the go.


My Review:
Portrait Drawing provides tips on how to draw simple portraits of people using pencils. The author briefly described the basics of using a pencil to draw (like how to hold the pencil and the types of marks you can make). Then she showed how to draw a general face/head oval and place guidelines on it to help put the facial features in the correct spots. She then focused on drawing each facial feature at various angles and included male/female and age differences. She also provided sketches and some tips for creating expressions, skin tones, and different types of hair.

The book was mainly illustrations showing how to block in the face and features from various viewing angles plus a number of the author's finished portraits. Overall, I'd recommend this book to artists who like examples and tips on creating portraits at unusual angles, as that seemed to be the strong point of this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Beginning Color Mixing by Kimberly Adams

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Beginning Color Mixing
by Kimberly Adams


ISBN-13: 9781633224902
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Walter Foster
Released: April 3, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Perfect for aspiring, beginning, and intermediate artists, the concept- and technique-driven approach makes this challenging subject approachable for artists of any skill level.

Loaded with techniques on how to use and create color for vivid artwork, Beginning Color Mixing explains every key aspect of color mixing. You’ll see basic color theory, hue and saturation, value, temperature, and color relationships and learn to wield color to create mood and atmosphere.

Each key concept is clearly explained, allowing you to master the core techniques and put them into practice immediately whether you’re working in oil, acrylic, or watercolor. Featuring plenty of step-by-step exercises and expert instruction, this is a resource no painter’s library should be without.


My Review:
Beginning Color Mixing is an art techniques book on how to pick what colors to use to create vivid, colorful artwork. The author creates colorful, finger-painted, Impressionistic landscapes. Her technique is to use vivid colors straight from the tube (mainly oil, but also acrylic or watercolor) and place dabs of color next to each other to create eye-catching paintings. (This book won't be of much help if you're looking for instruction on mixing your own colors on a palette; it's about placing color on the canvas.)

The author briefly covered tools, materials, etc., and then discussed the basics of colors and color theory. Then she talked about the main colors--reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, purples, neutrals, black and white--as well as the specific paint colors that she uses to create a range of red (or other) colors in her paintings. She also gave tips about specific paint colors that look good together and how to use color to draw the eye or unify the painting.

She was very easy to understand and her demonstrations were clear and well-illustrated. She provided 4 step-by-step landscape demonstrations (lighthouse and ocean, clouds and a field, fall trees, and more trees) in her Impressionistic style. Overall, I'd recommend this book to any painter who is drawn to her vivid, colorful paintings--like the one on the cover.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How to Draw People by Jeff Mellem

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How to Draw People
by Jeff Mellem


ISBN-13: 9781440353161
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: North Light Books
Released: April 24, 2018

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In How to Draw People, author Jeff Mellem teaches beginning artists how to draw the human figure, from stick figure to anatomically accurate person, in clear, easy-to-follow lessons. More than just a reference, this book provides the step-by-step instruction to teach you to draw the human figure and the anatomical knowledge to draw it realistically.

In each chapter, called "levels," you'll learn core concepts for drawing the human figure. Each new chapter builds on the previous one to give you the skills you need to add complexity to your drawing. By the end of each chapter, you will be able to draw the figure with greater detail. By the end of Level 5, you will be able to draw an expressive figure with defined muscle groups in a variety of poses both real and imagined. With clear step-by-step demonstrations and check-ins along the way, How to Draw People is the beginner's guide to drawing realistic figures.


My Review:
How to Draw People is an art book on how to draw human figures. The author teaches this by using a 5 level method that introduces figure drawing in a simple way and builds up to a fully realistic figure. The first level involves learning to draw an advanced stick figure--first just getting all the parts down, then trying to get the parts in proportion--and also learning to do gesture drawing. The second level involves drawing a simplified skeleton. The third level is a more refined figure using merged boxes and cylinders to create the volume of the figure. The fourth level adds on the largest, outer muscle structures. The fifth level is drawing a fully realistic human figure.

The last two levels took up much of the book as they illustrated the outer anatomy of the body and how to draw it. Each chapter had exercises for you to practice until you master that level of drawing. There were step-by-step demonstrations for each new skill or body part. I have read the whole book but am currently working on level four. I feel like the book has helped boost my confidence and my drawing skill in figure drawing. Overall, I'd recommend this book to beginners in figure drawing.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Light Shines from the West by Robert C. Baron

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The Light Shines from the West
by Robert C. Baron


ISBN-13: 9781682751640
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Released: April 3, 2018

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
An exploration of the innovations and expansions that have shaped the West and the American landscape from 1800 to today, this book shines a light on the people and places integral to the development of our nation. Robert C. Baron has been joined by five others in writing this important book. Contributors include Elizabeth Darby, Page Lambert, Dr. Bruce Paton, Daniel Wildcat, and Donald A. Yale.


My Review:
The Light Shines from the West is a collection of 12 essays written by 6 different people about the development of the American West, from the Louisiana Purchase to present day. The intent was to include information on the people who lived in the West before American Easterners arrived and to look at factors that made living in the West a unique experience. The essays were still basically from the European/Eastern American viewpoint of events and about their migration into the West. Each chapter was on a new topic (though there was some repetition by other authors), and we're only provided with an overview or survey of the topic.

The essays talked about how the land of the West was acquired, what it was physically like, the various deals that have been made with the American Indians up until present day, who settled Canada and Mexico and their expansion and consolidation, a brief history of the development of transportation and communications which allowed more rapid settlement and less isolation in the West, reasons people went West (agriculture, mining, logging, Homestead Act, etc.) and it's economic development, a multi-ethnic look at women's role in the West, what rural life was like, political issues, and more.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.